It was not the best of starts with the plane being delayed for 2 hours, but I finally arrived and was met by Cornelia, the national IFYE coordinator in Austria. She took us to the hostel where we met the other exchanges from Switzerland, Chicago and England. During our day in Vienna and met the president of Landjugend which is equivalent to our YFC. We played various team-building games incorporating different skills like communication to help with staying with our host families.
After a 5 hour train journey to Klagenfurt, which is the capital of the federal state of Carinthia in Austria, I was met by my host family the Smoles – I stayed with them for 10 days. One of the first surprising things for me is that when most people say they can’t speak good English they are being very modest. Most can speak really good English, I did not have to use my German dictionary once!
We had an action packed 10 days doing a variety of activities, far too many to mention them all. I took part in the family everyday activities. I went to work with the mum Karina (a Biologist). We monitored horseshoe bats in the grave yard at night and went on a field trip looking for Dice snakes, which they regularly monitor. I helped at the Iron man competition which is a triathlon (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run). 3000 athletes from 61 countries competed. Here I helped out at the running stage giving out wet sponges and drinks. It was great fun and very inspirational but I don’t think you will get me doing it. The oldest competitor who finished was 77 years old and a lady that was blind also completed it.
We went to an Eagle show at Castle Landskron where various bird of prey where flown over the castle. It was breathtaking watching various birds of prey like the Golden and Bald Eagle fly over the picturesque scenery. I went to a Brettljause with members of their family. This is where a farm will open up for a set time over the summer and serve their own produce. Brettljause is a cold meat served on a wooden platter. Some other things I visited were the body painting festival, PyramidenKogel the world’s highest wooden observation tower, Minimundus, Schonbrunn palace, and the Spanish riding school.
There are several things which stood out to me in Austria. One of the first things I noticed about the landscape is that there are not many hedges around. It was really hard to adjust to travelling on the other side of the road. There are not many roundabouts there; they are just starting to become popular. One of the things I found particularly unusual about their houses is that the ones in the Alps have roofs and the guttering are made from wood.
I would like to thank my sponsors again – Callington Rotary Club, Callington Lions and Callington YFC for their very kind sponsorship. If you would like to find out more about YFC travel scheme you can visit the NFYFC website. I do recommend it’s a good way to learn about the culture and see places you would not necessarily see as a tourist. There’s so much to get out of it. I have made new friends, learnt a bit of German, I’m more confident in using maps and have got some unforgettable memories. One of the main things I’m taking away is not to say no and just give it a go. You will be surprised!
1) Nicole with the president of Landjugend and other exchanges… 2) The Smole family eating Cornish pasty made by Nicole… 3) Hiking with Helmut and Matto… 4) at the top of peak Falkert…